Climate change to cause global beer shortage

Ismael LynchOct 18, 2018

Beer is the prom king of alcoholic beverages, winning the popularity contest in terms of total volumes drunk.

Just 17 percent of the world's barley crops are harvested to brew alcohol, while most of it goes to feed livestock. For instance, the study, published in Nature Plants this past Monday, October 15, claimed that if the countries of the world continued on their current course without any regard for climate change (what scientists refer to as the "business as usual" model) the earth's production of barley would shrink 17% by the century's end. The issue stems from drought and excessive heat that could drastically reduce barley crop yields, a vital ingredient used to make beer.

The research showed that beer consumption worldwide could diminish by 16 percent during the most severe weather conditions; prices would double on average.

Though not falling into that category, China, the largest beer-consuming country, may also witness an 83-percent rise in price, according to the study.

The apocalyptic impact of climate change has finally been revealed - the price of beer could soar to a tenner a pint (on top of all the global drought, starvation, rising seas and so on). Other countries would most likely drink less beer, as their farmers are expected to export more barley to countries that would struggle to grow enough barley under hotter, drier conditions.

When that happens, beer prices on average could double. In the USA, consumption could decrease by up to 3.48 billion liters.

Overall, Sluyter said Guan and his team's research contributed to the larger picture where climate change proved to be a significant threat against the world's food supply.

"Although the effects on beer may seem inconsequential in comparison to numerous other - some, life-threatening - impacts of climate change, there is nonetheless something fundamental in the cross-cultural appreciation of beer", the study said.

Under climate change, "the majority of countries will have a decline in barley", Guan said. A good caution, since that might well be the policy solution favored by beer drinkers faced with a possible shortage 80 years in the future. This means declining yields will hit beer production extra hard.

The United States in particular will see a 20% overall reduction in beer consumption under the worst-case climate change scenario, while the per bottle price spikes by 50%, Guan said. "Nevertheless, there is little doubt that for millions of people around the world, the climate impacts on beer availability and price will add insult to injury".

To reach their findings, researchers looked at 80 years of different climate change models - which includes temperature and rainfall - to estimate how it would alter the yield of barley throughout the world.

The study was supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the British Academy and Philip Leverhulme Prize.

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